Leslie Hottiaux

It’s fitting that Kiwi chef and one-time San Pellegrino Best Young Chef Pacific winner Leslie Hottiaux talks so much about community and neighbours. Apero, the Auckland bistro Hottiaux opened with maitre d partner Ismo Koski, is a warm, cosy hangout that welcomes and comforts guests with homely French flavours. For her, the people you break bread with are as important as the bread you break, as demonstrated by her guide to New Zealand’s biggest city.

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An Amazing, Versatile Japanese Restaurant

Cocoro does Japanese food so well and is my absolute favourite restaurant. Makoto Tokuyama is such a talented chef. It really is my special place and everything about it is amazing. I love that it can be the big splurge celebration night out or it can be the low-key lunch option where you’re in and out. The sashimi platter is next level.

A French Restaurant Where You’re Surrounded By Wine

If chefs are visiting, I’ll take them to lunch at Maison Vauron. The chef – one of my old head chefs – is from France, but he loves to cook old-school dishes. Terrines, rillettes, whatever the plat-du-jour may be on that day: everything on the menu is awesome. It also helps, that the restaurant is also a distributor as well. While you eat, you’re surrounded by wine which you can literally pull off the shelf and drink with lunch. It’s awesome, plus we can also do lunch there on a Monday which is the start of our weekend.

An Auckland Game-Changer

When Depot opened years ago, it really set the bar for casual, tasty food. It still crushes it today. It’s not new, but it’s still exciting. The food is so on-point and simple in appearance but so delicious and the service – for how busy it is – is always awesome.

Elevated Korean and Lebanese Flavours

Han – a restaurant offering a modern take on Korean food – is amazing. Gemmayze Street is, without doubt, home to the best Lebanese food in Auckland.

In And Around Mount Eden

Cazador has a totally unique approach to food and the cuts it uses. Chef Dariush Lolaiy is very talented and cooks food I love to eat, and the service is perfect and relaxed. It’s also one of Auckland’s longest standing family-owned restaurants. Lillius is a new-ish restaurant that does everything right without the any pretension. It serves beautiful food in a beautiful room, created by a beautiful couple

Where To Eat With Kids

I have a two-year-old and The Grounds is the perfect place to take him to. He gets to play and have fun in the playground, and I get to eat beautifully cooked food that isn’t just burgers and fries.

Beautiful Restaurants Run By Beautiful People

Coco’s Cantina is such a special restaurant, run by beautiful people, who are also our neighbours. I had my first date with my partner there many years ago, and it’s still really special – every time – even after 10 years. They still nail it. In my opinion, it’s probably the coolest joint in town. The Engine Room is a local gem that continues to be amazing and is worth the trip over the [Auckland Harbour] bridge. It’s run by a couple that just keep going. I have a lot of respect for what they do and also how they do it. Sidart is also another special restaurant for me, and it is always great to go there and eat chef Sid Sahrawat’s exciting food.

Drinks After Service

After service, we like to go to GG x Flamingo which is literally right across the road from Apero.  Sammy the owner is such a wonderful host and the drinks are on-point. It’s truly a hidden gem.  Pro-tip: next door is the Satya Chai Lounge and there you can find some of the tastiest Indian street food around. What Sammy has done at the Spice Lounge and GG is pretty amazing for Auckland. Madame George, another neighbour, also does great drinks and tasty food. There’s also Caretaker: a small, dark, cosy bar serving bespoke cocktails made by great staff.

My Favourite Late-Night Supper

If we’re going to get something to eat after service, my favourite Chinese dumpling restaurant New Flavour, is the one. It’s BYO, the food is always tasty and it’s open till 4am.

Guide Last Updated March 2020

Our guides are fact-checked and updated regularly. Read more here.

Leslie Hottiaux

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